Thursday, May 14, 2015

What's next?

What's next for me? I don't have a quick answer beyond a charity walk on Saturday.

After a strong showing at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K, I found myself agreeing with Cory that maybe next year, the 10K would be a good idea.

Then, after our strong showing at the Drake Relays half marathon, I found myself with the odd feeling that I've — well, "conquered" or "mastered" are too strong of words ... maybe solved or figured out the half marathon.

And while I proved last year that I can bike across the state of Iowa in a week, I decided that for personal and not physical reasons, I would skip RAGBRAI 2015.

Clearly it's time for something different. I have a few ideas rattling around my head, but nothing I'm ready to commit to on the Internet.

New race distances are definitely in play, such as doing the Newbo 10K (to help a friend commit to the Newbo Half Marathon!), or, closer to home, the Capital Pursuit 10-miler.

Heck, even though hills, heat and humidity are my idea of hell, maybe this would be the best year to attempt the Bix 7 in Davenport — people rave about it, but it's always on the last day of RAGBRAI.

I'm giving myself the rest of the month to figure it out; I kept up a reasonable amount of exercise in the two weeks between the half marathon and Saturday's Woofin' It 5K (race report still to come). I chose "the rest of the month" for two reasons:

One, it seems like the right amount of time to keep myself from burning out, mentally and physically, on running.

And two, my personal life is getting pretty chaotic in a good way: travel plans and job transitions. Starting Monday, I'll no longer have a full-time job; I'm switching to two part-time gigs, one of which has a strong potential to become full-time by the end of the year.

So by the time June arrives, I'll be firmly parked in Des Moines for a while, and I'll have a better sense for what my days look like.

Yes, exercise is a stress-reliever, and I plan to keep active for the next few weeks, but to try to plan workouts around leaving one job/starting another/hitting the road multiple weekends seems like an added source of anxiety.

Tentatively, I'd like to get two bike rides of substance, two runs and two yoga sessions in a week. So many of my friends are into weight-lifting that I feel compelled to worry about getting strength training in ... but that's something I'll worry about in June!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy cycle-versary to me

A year plus a few days ago, I took the plunge into bike commuting. Back then, I didn't know whether I'd love it or loathe it, but I was cautiously optimistic.

It took me less than a month to cancel my work parking pass. And though I kept waiting for winter to discourage me into reactivating it, I'm still sitting here, parking-pass-free.

The way Cory feels about commuting by bike seems to sum up my feelings, too: I don't always leave the apartment/work excited about riding, but every time I arrive at my destination, I'm glad I did it.

That even holds true in the winter, shockingly. (Of course, I'd feel differently if I didn't live with a bike guru who got me in good shape, equipment-wise, for snow riding.)

I am definitely not as committed to it as many other riders are. I can fairly easily find an excuse to drive to the grocery store that's only half a mile away from the apartment.

If I cheat on my bike often enough, though, I remember why I prefer it — I hate paying for parking, especially now that I got out of the habit of doing it, and I dread parallel parking.

(So don't think I have some higher moral reasons for biking, or that I'm self-righteous about it. It's laziness in a different form.)

And I also start to feel guilty about driving if I do it too much now. I'm an abstainer, not a moderator, so I tend to expect 100 percent commitment from myself.

Sometimes when I wish I'd burned calories and not fuel/money, I have to remind myself that more often than not, I take advantage of the fact that bike commuting *is* practical for me. (Again, I don't want to sound like a bike evangelical — not everyone is in the right position to do it. No judgment here.)

I guess the takeaway from this particular post is that if I meet up with you and I have helmet hair or give off a faint odor of perspiration, you'd better either deal with it or make excuses not to hang out. The Shrimp isn't getting put away anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Race report: Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon

This won't come as a surprise to anyone who follows me on Instagram, but this year's Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon was the polar opposite of my 2013 experience.

The short version: Race-day weather was perfect, I didn't stop to walk once, and I finished with a milestone personal record that far exceeded my goals.

The numbers: 1:58:59 (9:05 pace) overall; 56:32 (9:08 pace) at 10K; 1:02:27 (9:03 pace) for the final 6.9 miles.

I did Bulldog Hill in 4:19:54, which because I never bothered to time myself during training doesn't mean a whole lot. My preliminary results sheet says that was good for 17th in my division (in comparison, my 10K rank was 38 and my total race rank was 25).

So, to back up, for anyone who cares. Cory and I both decided to keep the 2:00:00 pacers within our sights for as long as it felt OK. That turned out to be the entire race, though how close they were did vary. (We figured out eventually that they went out a bit fast to bank time on the hills.)

I didn't feel fantastic starting out, but by mile 2 it became apparent to me that it was simply a matter of warming up. Everything felt springy and good until close to mile 7.

At that point, we'd changed directions, and we both actually started to get a little too hot. I even had a moment of light-headedness, so I made sure to get some water at the next aid station. That, plus a light breeze and more shade along the route, seemed to do the trick.

Somewhere after mile 8, Cory and I made a friend whose name we forgot to ask and for whom we later wished we'd waited at the finish line. We chatted with Mr. Quad Cities for nearly three miles about beer, pets and careers (as well as running) — a really nice way for us to keep our minds off the hills ahead.

Speaking of hills, the worst one for me was actually up Fleur Drive back to downtown. Not only was it the only one I hadn't practiced, but also it was very exposed to the strongest winds we'd felt yet that day.

After that, Cory and I were feeling much more confident: We'd entered our home turf. Up Grand we went, trying to encourage all the walkers (in an honest, voice-of-experience way), and turned onto 28th ... at which point I got butterflies.

We were so close at that point. I knew I had locked down all my safe goals, but only Cory had a sense for just how well we were doing. But so close didn't mean so easy.

Just as we got to the intersection of 28th and Ingersoll, I glanced at the spectators and saw co-worker Chris, there to cheer on his girlfriend with their beautiful dog. He recognized me too and yelled some encouragement, and I shouted back that I'd practiced on Bulldog Hill, I had it in the bag.

And maybe that was the pep talk I needed — not from him, but from myself — so up I went, passing quite a few walkers on the way. (What a jerk, right?)

Not long after we crested the hill, Cory turned to me and said he was gonna step it up. This came right as I felt the worst, far enough from the hill where we'd both caught our breath, but close enough where the fatigue had suddenly all settled into my left quad.

"Go ahead," I said. "I don't have anything extra." He tried to be encouraging, but I let a little whine creep into my voice as I insisted I really didn't.

I'm sure I slowed up some, yet I never lost sight of Cory. And once I was within sight of University Avenue and had about a mile left, my legs found a second wind.

I have never, ever, felt so strong during mile 12 of a race. Not even during the 2013 Des Moines Half Marathon, when I PR'ed by eight minutes. I did pass a few people and gained some ground on Cory, and my revival was rewarded when I entered the stadium ...

... this year, you barely had to run around the track. Instead of a quarter-mile left, I had not even a quarter of the track!

My spirits went from great to over the moon. I think I yelled "f--- yeah two hours!" as I sprinted that final leg, arms in the air, tossing that monkey off my back with conviction.

Once more: 1:58:59. I cleared 2:00:00 with a whole minute to spare. There is literally nothing I can think of, from my taper week through mile 13.09, that I wish I'd done differently or better.

Time to kick back for a week and bask in my glory before deciding what's next.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sightings in the wild, part II

I've been spotted by co-workers while out on the loose again.

A while back, I was running past Walgreens as co-worker Jennifer was walking out to her car. I think she recognized me, in spite of what was almost certainly a crazy outfit; at the very least, she returned my wave.

A more recent spotting came from Jill, who was in a car at the time (but not the white CR-V that honked at me along 42nd Street).

It was raining at the time, which evidently prompted Jill to turn to her school-aged daughter and ask, "Do you think we should stop and offer her a ride?"

I didn't look miserable, though (hooray, no race face!), so they kept going. However, I think this was the same day it hailed, because I don't remember any other rainy runs ... maybe they should have stopped.

* * *

As for Sunday's Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon — I did it, and I did it well. I want to blog about it well, too, and today I just don't have the brain space. But details will be forthcoming, I promise!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

And now, the waiting begins

I went on my last run before the Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon today — a slow 3.25ish-mile endeavor. Nothing notable to report from it.

Tomorrow I'll ride to work, as usual, but otherwise rest up, and on Saturday, I'll be volunteering at the Run for the Trees 5K/1-mile fun run before probably just bumming around the apartment.

I really wanted to do the tree race, but it just seemed like a risky move, even when I don't have much half marathon pressure ... given that I'll likely be on my feet when I'm there, maybe it's ultimately a wash and I could have run ... but then again, standing is lower-impact.

Anyway, I've, unsurprisingly, been thinking about my weekend meals, for both before and after the race.

Saturday night dinner is looking like chicken pasta, maybe some garlic bread, and a beer (it's tradition!); Sunday breakfast could be scrambled eggs/toast or possibly blueberry pancakes.

After the race will probably be "wherever serves us fastest and cares least about how we smell" (in 2013, that was the Drake Jethro's breakfast buffet).

And now that I've wrapped up the workouts, I can lay out my race-day gear. I'm going with the standby outfit — pink T-shirt, black shorts, pink sweatband and sunglasses — and my newer Balega socks.

So that's probably it from me until next week, but I imagine I'll be posting my time on Twitter and Daily Mile, at the very least. Maybe there'll even be a sweaty selfie on Instagram afterwards, too.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hy-Vee Half Marathon forecasts

We still have a whole week for this to change, but I am optimistic about the weather for this year's Hy-Vee Half Marathon.

A week of temperatures in the low to mid-60s lies ahead, which will be a welcome contrast with 2013's race-day weather. Unlike in 2013, though, I've had a chance to run long in warmer weather, so the system will be less shocked. Probably still angry, but less shocked.

And also unlike 2013, I don't have a slew of ambitious race-day goals. My goal had been to get into shape for a 5K personal record (mission accomplished) and to feel less miserable during this particular race.

Cory and I have discussed, casually, what time range we'd like to see out of ourselves, though. He'd like to beat his 2014 Dam to Dam time (2:08) -- as would I, actually, given that Dam to Dam was my second-best half marathon time.

We haven't timed our long runs, so I don't have anything more specific that I think I can do. Also, I don't want to start building up expectations with the reality of spring weather and late, steep hills.

However, I don't think it would be unrealistic to hope for a 2:05:00 finish, along with ending with a smile. That would pretty decisively wipe out memories of 2014 Dam to Dam and 2013 Hy-Vee Half.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking over the streets

Recently I was riding through Beaverdale in the middle of the day, and oddly enough, I was neither the only non-automobile on the road, nor the most unusual-looking user of the road.

First I came up behind two women in motorized scooters — on the road, not the sidewalk. I've seen how uneven, narrow and noncontinuous sidewalks can be, though, so I'm not judging.

It was kind of funny, in a way, to see how they took control of that lane. They were side by side, not in a line, for what I assumed was greater visibility to drivers.

Closer to home, I turned a corner to find myself behind a tricked-out golf cart zooming along a side street. Evidently that's how florists now deliver.

But hey, if I had the chance to do my job in pleasant springtime weather instead of in an enclosed space, I'd jump at that chance, too.

Cheers to my fellow travelers using means other than the automobile.